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In-depth reviews of medical alert providers, devices and systems. Our exclusive Star Rating System ranks Life Alert, Medical Guardian, LifeStation, Lifeline and more.

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Fall Detection

 fall detection

When a senior or loved one falls, they may be unable to press their medical alert button to call for help. This is where Automatic Fall Detection can help.

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Buyer’s Guide

Buyer's Guide

Our medical alert buyer’s guide makes it easy by walking you through the six things you need to do first when buying a medical alert system.

Buyer’s Guide


 

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Understanding Medical Alert Systems For Senior Care

Although various types of home security systems have been around since the dawn of time, the history of medical alert devices only goes back about four decades. Medical alert systems have been around since 1972, helping the elderly get personal emergency response when they are not able to get to their telephones. A psychology professor named Dr. Dibner is known for creating a patent on the first medical alert pendant. And just like that, seniors were able to get personal emergency response with a push of a button. In addition to giving family caregivers peace of mind, medical alert devices can be life-saving in a medical emergency. These types of emergency response systems have come a long way since the 1970’s. Technology advances have allowed medical alert devices to evolve to current home security and medical monitoring needs. Medical alert systems now come with features such as fitness trackers, motion sensors, automatic fall detection and GPS medical tracking, just to name a few. Medical alert devices have several names such as PERS (personal emergency response system) and MERS (medical emergency response system).

With numerous medical alert companies to choose from, narrowing down options can be daunting. MedicalAlertAdvice.com was created to help you navigate the research of not only what type of medical alert system your aging loved one will need but which company will best suit your needs. In our medical alert comparison chart, we break down which medical alert systems providers offer services such as GPS medical alerts, automatic fall detection and so on. You will also be able to compare the company’s customer service and things such as long-term contracts, equipment fees and cancellation fees. These are all important pieces of information to complete your search for the perfect medical alert device. Also, remember to search for certain features that not only your loved one needs now, but what they will need down the road as well. For example, those who suffer from low blood pressure and are prone to fainting would benefit from the automatic fall detection feature. Next, we will take you through the many different types of medical alert systems in detail.

 

Traditional Medical Alert Pendant Systems

Traditional Medical Alert Systems are usually the first thing people think of when you hear the words “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” These systems are very popular and affordable. They usually come with a pendant button that is worn at all times and allows your loved one to call for immediate help. Many companies offer different types of ways to wear the pendant button such as a watch style or alert bracelet, clip-on attachment to your clothing or a pendant necklace. You can choose your personal preference on how you’d like to wear the emergency button, although the most popular option seems to be the pendant necklace. Please be aware, these medical alarm systems typically require you to have a landline telephone which isn’t as common in today’s households.

The traditional medical alert system comes with a two-way console that connects to a monitoring center. The system has sensitive microphones and loud speakers that will help you communicate once an emergency occurs. After you have pushed the button on your device, it will send a signal to the call center which will have all of your emergency contact information readily available. The call specialists will act as they see fit if no specific instructions have been given, such as calling your loved ones or dispatching 911, depending on your emergency situation. Many have been trained in personal emergency response and will stay on the line with your loved one until help arrives.

When shopping around for these devices, check the range of the signal to the base unit to be sure it suits your needs. We also suggest that you do not sign long-term contracts as your needs may change in the future. Make sure to read the contract thoroughly and understand the cancellation process. Another consideration is if the company operates its own monitoring stations, and if they adhere to UL certification and TMA (formally CSAA) Five Diamond standards. Family caregiving can be challenging, but knowing that your elderly loved one has an emergency button on their person at all times can help to alleviate stress. They can also help your aging loved one age in place longer.

 

GSM and CDMA Cellular-Based Medical Alert Systems

GSM stands for Global System Mobile Communications and CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access. These are two major technologies the companies like AT&T (GSM) and Verizon (CDMA) use to carry signals across their wireless cellular networks. These types of cellular based medical alert systems are great options for when your home does not have a traditional telephone landline connection. Since they operate on the same cellular network as your cell phone, they offer protection anywhere there is a cell signal. Similar to the traditional medical alert system, when the emergency medical button is triggered, a signal is sent to the alarm monitoring center. The alert button connects to the base unit wirelessly. The pendant may also be worn a number of ways. For instance, you can wear it as a medical alert bracelet (watch) or necklace.

The devices are often waterproof which offers additional protection in the case of slips and falls in the shower or tub. Once the button is pushed, an expertly trained response center representative will connect with you through the speaker inside your unit. They will work with you to call your loved ones who they already have on file or contact 911, if needed. If you are unable to speak, emergency assistance will be called immediately. The dispatcher will also stay on the line until help arrives providing comfort in your time of need.

 

Mobile and GPS Cellular Medical Alert Systems

Many medical alert companies offer mobile-based medical alert systems that provide protection while you’re away from your home. Some systems even have GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) location services built right in. These systems are a top pick among consumers for their flexibility and range as these mobile versions can be used outside of one’s home. How these systems work depends on the options that are available to you. Basically, while you are in your backyard garden or out at the local grocery store, you can press the button on your portable device and the operator will be able to pinpoint your location, so they can send help. Some systems will even allow you to speak to the operator right through the mobile device itself, just like a home-based unit, and can provide fall detection as well.

These mobile devices are smaller than a smartphone but always require charging the battery, unlike a traditional medical alert pendant would. The key is finding the right one for your aging loved one. We suggest starting with Medical Alert Advice’s handy comparison chart. Compare side-by-side features such as alert button range, battery life, response times and carbon monoxide protection, as well as monthly fees and additional fees for equipment and cancellation. So, whether your loved one lives in senior housing, assisted living or at home, a cellular based medical alert system with GPS tracking is a great medical alert option for them.

 

Fall Detection Systems

One of the most popular features of medical alert devices is automatic fall detection. With an estimated one in four seniors falling each year, it’s no wonder why. Falls are also the leading cause of fatalities and trauma for seniors over the age of 65. Companies who offer automatic fall detection normally have the technology built into the user’s alert pendant. The processors can detect between normal every day activity and an actual fall. When an automatic fall detection system senses that a user has fallen, it will give the user a short period of time to respond before alerting medical assistance. It can even detect falls as little as two feet which means if you fall off your couch or chair, it will sense it. It’s important to point out that these sensors do not detect sliding movement so for that reason, they are not 100% accurate.

Having the alert button on the pendant which the user can press in addition to the automatic sensors is important. The benefit of having automatic fall detection for your aging loved one is the speed of reaction in case of an incident and they are unable to press the alert button themselves. This is lifesaving in most situations. A diabetic who suffers from low blood pressure and is prone to falls or a person susceptible to heart attacks are just a few users who can benefit. Having this safety device can bring tremendous piece of mind to their loved ones. There are several features to consider when purchasing this type of device. If slipping in the bath or shower is a concern, having a device that is waterproof is key. You also want a pendant that alerts you when the battery is low and is comfortable to wear. We recommend testing the system often to be sure it is working properly. Remember, there are extra fees associated with adding automatic fall detection to your in-home medical alert system. You can easily compare these costs right here on our website.

 

Wellness Monitoring

Wellness monitoring is a new comer to the medial alert system market. It is a well-rounded, 24/7 emergency response system with a set of equipment that allows caregivers to monitor a number of actions that attribute to the well being of the senior. Wellness systems come with equipment such as motion sensors and sensors on your doors and bed. They have stationary emergency buttons as well as wearable pendants in addition to water detectors and other security video devices. All of these items work together to create a picture of your overall wellness and health. Wellness monitors get to know your routine such when you go to the bathroom, your sleep cycles, activity levels and so on. When there is a disruption in that routine, it will alert caregivers that you may be unwell or even might have fallen. For instance, if your bed has been empty for a long period of time in a given night, it is likely you have fallen and did not wear your pendant at bedtime or you could be unconscious. If your trips to the bathroom have increased, perhaps you need to be checked by a doctor. Wellness sensors can even detect when you have missed a dose of medication.

This type of overall wellness monitoring allows caregivers to give you customized care.  Imagine you have a loved one with dementia that does not remember to wear their pendant. This system is a great safety net for traditional medical alert pendants, in this situation. Door sensors will protect them from wandering late at night and bed sensors can help detect nighttime falls which are extremely common among senior citizens. Your caregiver can easily log into your wellness dashboard via their computer or mobile device app to view reporting of your daily activity and even your behaviors, such as wake-up times and kitchen visits. These wellness systems help facilitate senior independence and caregiver peace of mind. It provides overnight support for caregivers which is an excellent tool for home-care companies and senior living facilities.

 

Medication Dispensing and Pill Management

Medication reminders and alarms can help your aging loved one remain independent in their home longer. With many seniors on at least one type of medication, it is important to have proper pill management. Spacing out medications is key to avoiding potentially dangerous drug interactions. These add-on systems are available options from some of the medical alert system providers we review on this site. These systems can help with the management of complex medicine schedules. In most cases, the system will provide an audible reminder through the base station of your personal emergency response system for when the medication is due. There is also a push button dispenser machine option. When the unit sounds, you would simply press the dispenser button and the exact dose of medication will be dispensed.

These are simple to use and help avoid double dosing. They also come with a lock and key that can be managed by the caregiver and prevents accidental tampering. Many seniors can benefit from the use of an automatic pill dispenser including those who are diagnosed with dementia, have tremors or even vision problems. The dispenser has volume settings, so it can be set to an extremely loud buzz for those who are hard of hearing as well as flashing lights. Please note that many of these systems require a home phone line although a few systems have come out in recent years that include a cellular option. These more advanced systems provide caregivers with notifications and reports, so they can be informed of any missed doses, etc. Keep this in mind when researching the best system for you.

 

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection Monitored Systems

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), seniors are twice as likely to be injured in a fire in their home. This makes it vital to have smoke detectors in your home. The recommendation is to have a smoke detector on each level of your home in addition to every bedroom and outside the sleeping area too. Since battery life can be an issue, set a reminder to test the batteries on all your life safety and security systems at least twice a year and completely replace the smoke detectors after ten years.

Carbon monoxide (CO) has been described as a silent killer because it has no order, smell or taste. CO detectors should be considered for anyone with an attached garage, fireplace or a gas hookup in the home. However, Medical Alert Advice suggests that all seniors (at a minimum) have at least one in their home, preferably outside of your sleeping area. Depending on the layout of your home, you may need several devices in your home, but no less than one per floor.

How it works is, they measure CO levels over time and will sound an alarm when dangerous levels of CO accumulate in the home. If monitored through your medical alert provider, they will alert you, your family, and emergency services immediately. Check with your in-home medical alert provider to see if they offer smoke and CO systems as part of their overall systems. Duel systems may also be available to provide both smoke and CO alarms. CO detectors have limited sensor life and should be replaced approximately every 5 years or when the sensor has notified you. Some wireless systems can provide additional protection for those who are visually or hearing impaired. It can vibrate your pillow or set off strobe lights as an additional warning to get you out of the house when the level has risen to a dangerous or deadly point.

Remember, the smoke and CO detectors purchased from your local home center are not monitored through your medical alert system and will only sound a local alarm to notify you of a fire or high levels of carbon monoxide. If you would like your medical alert company to provide professional monitoring services for these life-saving devices, you must purchase these optional devices through them.

 

Telemedicine and Smart Home Technologies

The medical alert system landscape seems to change on a daily basis. With new home care technologies continually coming out, there are even more reasons to let your loved one age in place longer. There are now systems that can control everything in your home such as turning on and off lights, setting security alarms, locking the doors and adjusting thermostats, all with a click of a button. Telemedicine is one of the recent extensions of the medical alert monitoring industry. In-home tests can provide blood pressure monitoring, blood glucose levels and much more to your caregiver or medical health professional, who can act accordingly depending on the results. Imagine having your doctor be able to respond immediately to incoming health reports. It could be potentially life-saving.

 

In-Home Care for Seniors

There are four different categories of caregiving:

  1. Personal Care – help with hygiene
  2. Emotional Care – companionship
  3. Household Care – cooking & cleaning
  4. Medical Care – physical therapy & medication management

In-home care services for seniors can range from 24/7 live-in caregiving to part-time caregiving. These services can include grocery shopping, driving to appointments, home cleaning and running errands. In some cases, just having the companionship of a caregiver can help seniors suffering from loneliness. With the help of so much of the new medical alert technology, a lot of seniors are choosing part-time caregiving and saving on caregiving costs. Whichever type of caregiving your loved one needs, combining it with a medical alert system will give you comfort and peace of mind that they are being fully taken care of.

There are several qualities to look for when finding an in-home caregiver for your loved one. Compassion and patience are key qualities for any caregiver to have. You also want to find someone with specific expertise in whatever area your loved one needs help with such as dementia care or diabetes management. Make sure the potential candidate has all of the needed education and certifications to care for your loved one. In addition to the obvious qualities, you want to be sure the two personalities mesh well together. Communication is key for a happy, healthy caregiving environment. Allowing your loved one to age in place with the help of an in-home caregiver can provide comfort and familiarity for years to come.